Damian Lazarus’ forthcoming full-length album, Flourish, continues to take shape with the release of its second single featuring vocalist Jem Cooke. ‘Into The Sun’ further explores the LP’s broken beat territories with a soulful sense of songwriting and cadence that carries it beyond the walls of clubland.
Those who have paid attention to Damian’s career know that the artists showcased through his Crosstown Rebels imprint and world-class events are chosen deliberately and methodically. Jem Cooke’s selection as the only featured artist on ‘Flourish’ is no different. Cooke is known for topline stylings alongside house music’s modern stars like Camelphat, Jamie Jones, Kate Simko, and others. This collaboration offers a left of the centre platform for the vocalist to experiment beyond the limits of 4/4, resulting in the swirling exposé of ‘Into The Sun’.
Lazarus is a true DJ, an artist at home taking crowds on incredible journeys across the globe. He averages 150 + shows a year, including his own landmark events like Day Zero and Get Lost. He is nothing if not restless, no down time for Damian. Since February he has holed himself in the studio finalizing and reforming ideas that had been brewing for years. It took a pandemic to ground the DJ, but what emerged is a more fully realized vision of Lazarus as a producer.
Flourish takes us through the many lives of Damian Lazarus, who, as he has grown older, and traversed the globe, has come to more deeply examine the role the dance floor plays in his own life and that of others. With parties canceled, it would have been easy to wallow, but instead urgency took hold, and isolated Italian countryside Damian took the space to tackle the larger questions he has been grappling with for years.
“My early ideas about a new album were quite dark, pessimistic even, I had long been thinking and worrying about the problems of the world. Then the global pandemic and subsequent lockdown began and my fears seemed to become reality. But while writing these themes actually started to transform in an uplifting way. The new songs came together quite quickly, with renewed impetus, and mutated into a more positive outlook. Questions about faith, religion and spirituality all appeared amidst the darkness and fear, but in those times of quiet solitude and creation, I came to realise we can emerge into the sun and flourish on the other side.”
As anyone who has watched Lazarus DJ can attest, his inspirations are deep and varied, criss crossing show tunes, drum n bass, jazz, electro, soul, house, techno and everything in-between. This album reflects his immersion in a multitude of scenes over the years, from the early days of London drum n bass to his role as a figurehead in the electroclash scene, and of course the significant impact his Crosstown Rebels label has had on contemporary underground house and techno. His shapeshifting is down to his relentless passion for new sounds and scenes, and it’s this dedication to the music that has seen him survive the boom and bust cycles and fads of club culture. It is this commitment to the outer edges of the dancefloor that has welcomed a resurgence of Crosstown as of late, a renewed reminder of Damian’s passion for showcasing the rising and revered alike.
Flourish is far from a box of functional DJ tools, in the same way as Damian’s debut album Smoke The Monster Out or the more worldly outings in his brace of albums with the Ancient Moons. It’s a personal, brave and varied body of work. It’s also the work of an artist who has grown over the ten years since his last solo album. Lazarus plays with nuances of texture, tempo and style to create a rich and dense album that takes us on an odyssey that is at times both dark and uplifting. Vocals of his own cast an intimate shadow over the album with those of his sole collaborator Jem Cooke offering a soothing balance amidst the madness.
For ‘Flourish’ to blossom into its fullest potential, Damian has joined forces with Diplo’s Higher Ground for the album’s release in the America’s. The two artists share a deep bond around uncovering the dance music leaders of tomorrow through their respective brands. ‘Flourish’ additionally serves as Higher Ground’s first ever album release, a fitting benchmark for house music’s newest North American stronghold.
Damian’s work reminds us that however taxing the journeys there are always moments of beauty to be found.